MILWAUKEE — The first cruise ship to visit Port Milwaukee for the 2022 season arrived on Friday.
The Viking Octantis is the biggest cruise to sail the Great Lakes, and it drew in people from all over the country.
"I have not been in Milwaukee before. This is my first time," Bill Stevenson, a passenger from Hawaii, said.
"I wanted to try out Viking. I’ve heard awesome things and they have great reviews."
Its arrival marked the start of the summer season where 33 port calls by various cruise ships are planned. That is compared to the 10 stops made in 2019 before Great Lakes cruising halted for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"For three years, we’ve been planning for this day. We have been looking at how we can incorporate locals, how we can have tour guides ready to go, and just be able to show off the city, great restaurants and everything else," Theresa Nemetz, owner of Great Lakes Shore Excursions, said.
This summer will bring more than 10,000 passengers to the city, according to a statement from the City of Milwaukee. Officials say the economic impact is expected to be between $2.8 million and $4 million annually.
The Viking Octantis is operated by Viking Cruises and can carry up to 378 passengers on voyages throughout the Great Lakes. This is the first time the ship will designate Milwaukee as an embarkation and debarkation port, according to the city.
Port Milwaukee recently received $3.5 million in Capital Tourism grant funding from the state to build new Seawaymax infrastructure at South Shore Cruise Dock.